The images of that September day will be forever imprinted on my mind. As we sat in social studies class and our teacher reached for the TV remote, a somber hush hovered over us all. Every channel repeated the same horrific sight over and over again. Then, like a fatal knockout punch to our country, we witnessed the second plane crash into the tower. The eerie silence across America following 9/11 lasted for weeks, but the questions in my head screamed louder than the explosions I witnessed.
Everything changed after that day in 2011. Americans grew suspicious of Middle Eastern countries and of anyone with a long, dark beard wearing a tunic. Airplane travel required extensive security checks with zero tolerance for leaving "bags unattended." Men and women filled church pews for months petitioning a previously irrelevant God for answers. Rumors of an impending draft for us young men left my friends and I scared of what could happen to us overseas.
I would have hoped our world would have found solutions by now, over a decade later. Haven't we learned the deadly cost of war and terror? Hasn't history proven time and time again how brutal retaliation only breeds more carnage? When will we realize that peace is never secured by war?
The bombings and shootings in Paris this past week break my heart. While I cannot know exactly how Parisians feel right now, I can guess what questions are going through their minds. How could this happen to us? Is my family safe? What is going to happen next?
Can't we all see the recurring, vicious cycle? Somehow, someway, we must stop this.
What irony: terrorists, as a demonstration of their core beliefs, plot the deaths of others, and in response, those who are terrorized, as a demonstration of their core beliefs, plot the death of terrorists.
America, our enemy is not ISIS or ISIL, even if they are to blame for terrorists acts against us and our international allies. Our guns and military strategies are not powerful enough to stop a trained army of soldiers willing to commit suicide for what they believe in. Our Homeland Security is not "secure" enough to ward off every foreign attack. In fact, our own domestic police officers are ill-equipped to end crime in our own cities! There has to be a better way.
The better way is Love. And before you write me off as a illogical, insensitive, idealistic, conservative lunatic, hear me out. Love is not an ideal or a strategy. Love is not a conservative or a liberal viewpoint. Love is not passive or weak. Love is not a dictatorship or a democracy. Love is a Person. And Love is the only solution to overcome evil.
What does love look like when our loved ones are killed by extremists? How is true love shown when innocent children are slaughtered in our streets? I don't know all the answers, but I'm learning this: love is not retaliation. No matter how much pain and loss I experience, and no matter how hated or tortured I am, violence in response to violence only makes me as evil as the terrorists themselves.
Many of you reading this blog are Christians. And if we Christians follow the pattern and lifestyle of Jesus, then we view terrorism differently than someone who does not subscribe to our faith. Check out these startling statements by Jesus Himself:
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!' (Matthew 5:43-44)
“Put away your sword,” Jesus told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword." (Matthew 26:52)
At the end of the day, we cannot control the actions, beliefs, or choices of others, even if we know them to be evil. Such manipulation and domination only breeds more terror and actually exposes our own dark inclination towards the same evil. Neither can we standby and let our families, neighborhoods, cities, and nation be trampled by those who despise and hate us. But our response to terror cannot be terror. It must be Love.
Terrorists are willing to die for their faith, but are we willing to live by ours?
What would the world look like if we responded differently? As Christians we know the Way, and instead of fighting other people, we should enforce the victory already won against the forces of darkness. We love our enemies. Jesus' road to victory was one of humility and death. How do we follow His example today?
I realize I may have opened a controversial topic, even among Christians. Do you agree or disagree? What do you think we can do about terrorism, specifically as Christians? Please leave your response below.
Check out tomorrow's blog for specific things we can do to defeat our real enemies!
***(I'm not saying I don't respect and appreciate our soldiers who face danger daily to protect us. However, on a macro level, I do not believe this is the best method for longterm success.)